Tao (タオ?) is the life force energy that can be found in every living and non-living thing. It can be manifested and used to increase the beings various abilities, giving them powers similar to that of gods.
Tao is the source of everything that exists in the world, be it living and non-living such as earth, water, plants, souls, flesh, air, etc. It has been said that the Tao of living things will end up being consumed by a small amount from the slightest thing that they do such as thinking, breathing, and living. Tao circulates throughout the body and is generated from the being's "tanden" (丹田 Chinese: Dantian?), which is located below the navel. Damage to the tanden can act as a weakness to beings with regenerative abilities, resulting in their death. When reviewing the concept of death, the Tao of living things will continue to exist within corpses and will emit the same sensation as the Tao of inorganics. Tao also reacts to feelings of emotion, usually growing when a person shows conviction or taking up a firm stance. According to Rien, anger is said to transform a person's Tao and can cause a change in the midst of battle.
The concept of Yin-Yang is the main component to Tao. Manifestation of Tao is created when one's spirit is balanced by following the Middle Way of Buddhism, meaning that the person must accept both opposing forces from within their hearts, such as their strengths and weaknesses, intensity and tranquility, stillness and motion, dark and light, etc. There have been some cases where Tao is manifested even if the individual is not fully aware that they are using it. One known method in which this is possible is for the person to use their senses by blinding themselves as to not rely so much in using their eyes. Through proper training spiritually and physically, especially towards aiming at increasing their Yin-Yang cycle, a person can fully master the usage of Tao and are able to increase their reserves.
Every Tao has an attribute to one of the Five Elements (五行 Gogyō?, Chinese: Wǔxíng). The five elements follow a cycle of restoration and hindering effects with one another when making physical contact. A restoration between two of the right elements will cause a being's Tao to be replenished and strengthen, while a hindering will cause a being's Tao to be drained and weakened. A clash between Tao of the same element will neither have a restoration or a hindering effect. The cycle is as follows:
- Wood (木 Moku?, Chinese: Mù) restores Fire and hinders Earth.
- Fire (火 Ka?, Chinese: Huǒ) restores Earth and hinders Metal.
- Earth (土 Do?, Chinese: Tǔ) restores Metal and hinders Water.
- Metal (金 Kin?, Chinese: Jīn) restores Water and hinders Wood.
- Water (水 Sui?, Chinese: Shuǐ) restores Wood and hinders Fire.
Even if they are not a Tao user, by using the restoration cycle a person can draw out their Tao with the added boost given to them by the right attribute user. For example, despite not being able to perceive Tao, Fuchi was able to unleash his Metal Tao as long as he maintained contact with Tōma who possessed Earth Tao. When two beings who possess the same element fight against each other the one with the higher skill of wielding Tao will prove to triumph over the other.
Tao acts as a current flowing around the person's body and is described as being physical and tangible. The speed and size of the current depends on the person's overall strength, and the direction in which the current flows is based on the person's elemental attribute. During a restorative Tao cycle, the person receiving the boost in power will have their current being pushed back. During a hindering Tao cycle, the person being weakened will have their current blocked. The current is depicted as a school of small, liquified sharks swimming around the user. Because their strength is incredibly high, Lord Tensen's currents are depicted having larger sharks swimming around them.
Plant Tao (植物のタオ Shokubutsu no Tao?), also known as Flower Tao (花タオ Hana Tao?), is Tao derived from flowers that offer regeneration powers and enhanced abilities. Tensens, artificial humans partially created from Plant Tao, benefit greatly from this Tao as they can regenerate any damage done to their bodies in an instant. Plant Tao causes a reaction to humans known as Arborification, where they bloom flowers from their body and enter into a blissful trance. The only known way for a human to overcome the Arborification and acquire the powers of Plant Tao is if they are on the verge of death and have a strong will to survive, such as having a will to protect someone important no matter what the cost. However, even if the human manages to balance out the fusion, the effects of the Arborification will accelerate if they regenerate too much, forcing them in trying to resist the vines in their body from taking over. The regeneration of a Tensen appear as vines with flowers restoring any lost limbs, while the regeneration of a human appear as vine markings healing the damage area. The two also gain dark sclera around their eyes.
There is a limitation to the healing factor of Plant Tao. When up against a Tao user with a hindering element, the Plant Tao user's healing abilities will be weakened and will ultimately die if their tanden is destroyed. Also, if they continue to take too much damage, the regeneration speed will be reduced due to the user's body exerting too much Tao.
Training to master Tao requires the five training methods of immortality: Dō'in, Taisoku, Shu'itsu, Shūten and Bōchū Jutsu.
- Dō'in (導引 Dō'in?) involves training through physical exercise.
- Taisoku (胎息 Taisoku?) involves training through breathing techniques.
- Shu'itsu (守一 Shu'itsu?) involves training through meditation.
- Shūten (周天 Shūten?) involves training through pathways of the body and organs.
- Bōchū Jutsu (房中術 Bōchū Jutsu?) involves training through sexual intimacy. This training method is said to be the most important since it requires a partner of the opposite chi. By joining in sexual intercourse, the chi's of both Yin and Yang will join and strengthen the two partners' Tao. Bōchū Jutsu can also be use to understand a person's Tao at a deeper level. According to Rien, cooperation is essential on the partner's behalf in order for Bōchū Jutsu to take full effect. Therefore, the two practitioners has to take each others sexual pleasures into account in order to have "harmony".
|Rien|| Yamada Asaemon|
|Shion|| Yamada Asaemon|
|Tao Fa †|
Ju Fa †
Mu Dan †
| Yamada Asaemon|
Zhu Jin †
|Rokurōta †||Lettuce Dōshi *||Tentacle Dōshi|
|Plant Tao Users|
|Dōshi †||Gui Fa||Hōko †|
Ju Fa †
Mu Dan †
|Tao Fa †||
Zhu Jin †
|Lettuce Dōshi *|
Click here to see the legend of the symbols used
- †: the character is deceased.
- *: the character's status is unknown.
- ‡: the character is no longer part of this group.
From the moment they awaken their Tao, the user gains a sixth sense where they are granted the ability to sense the presence of other Tao around them. By sensing Tao the user is able to capture every single detail of a person's characteristics such as their height, weight, gender and even hairstyle. Since Tao can be found in non-living things as well, the user can sense the Tao of the terrain around them to help guide their way through obstacles and give them a detailed layout of structures. Shion describes the sensation of Tao as sensing "waves" (波 Nami?) flowing through the contours of one's body, which creates an aura of light silhouettes within a dark background. Tao that has been lost will show when the person's aura is not completely formed or is fading away. There are two ways in which Tao can be sensed: either by cloaking the body in Tao to "feel out" the surroundings or to gather and focus Tao around the eyes, either having them closed or opened.
By sensing how the Tao moves, the Tao user is able to predict the intentions behind someone's actions. In battle, the Tao user is able to predict their opponent's attack, making it easy for them to avoid and counterattack. It has been proven by users (such as Shion and Mu Dan) that sensory of an opponents Tao to track their movements is far greater than if one were to use their eyes. As greatly demonstrated by the blind Shion who managed to cut every one of Mu Dan's fast oncoming Kishikai stingers perfectly timed and only receive minor scratches. Another example is when Mu Dan blinded himself to show Yuzuriha and Senta that he was able to easily evade their attacks even without the use of his eyes.
Tao sensory can pinpoint the weak spots of a beings Tao and can even use weak strikes to deal damage to the weaken area. During his sparring match with Tamiya, Gabimaru was able to sense his weak spot around his strong body and caused him to feel pain with a simply kick. Shugen was able to send a Sōshin's head flying after sensing its weaken area around its upper body.
Tao users can also sense a person's elemental attribute corresponding to their Tao.
By focusing on the flow of their Tao, the user is able to suppress it as a way to conceal their presence from others. This makes it ideal to perform sneak attacks on their opponents or for espionage. This concept was first demonstrated by Yuzuriha, as she used a technique that allowed her to switch places with an object while suppressing her Tao, and then perform a surprise attack on her opponent. Mu Dan demonstrated a more advanced version of this ability were he not only vanishes from his targets line of sight but also their mind.
Tao can be used to enhance the user's combat abilities. Physical attacks or weapons imbued with Tao are stronger than they would normally without. It has been noted by Sagiri and Shion that Tao attacks causes severe damage from within the targets body as if their soul was struck and can cause fatal damage even if they don't hit vital points.
By cloaking their body with Tao, the user is able to harden their body to shrug off any normal attacks made contact. For example, while unknowingly using it, Rokurōta's Tao provided enough sturdiness to his large bulky body to survive being injured by weapons.
Redirection allows a Tao user to use their opponent's Tao against themselves by sending their Tao current back at them. In order to use this technique, the Tao user must first weaken a single part of their body to withstand and deflect their opponent's incoming attacks. To successfully ward off the attacks, the Tao user must synchronize their breathing with their opponent's Tao by following the principles of the Middle Way; by going between the extremes of tranquility and intensity. At the same time, the Tao user must ride their opponent's Tao current to initiate the redirection. This strategy makes it perfect to counter against powerful Tao users, such as Lord Tensen, without having to worry about the Tao cycle or wasting any of the users own Tao. The drawback though is that since the user must suppress a little of their Tao their body becomes less sturdy and must endure even a single graze from their opponent. This concept was first discovered by Gabimaru.
Tao can also be used to attack without coming into close-range of the users intended target. This technique was later revealed to be known as Distant Strike (遠当 Tōate?) by Mu Dan. By gathering Tao in their hand, the user launches it as a invisible projectile by delivering an open-handed strike. This form of fighting makes it ideal for attacking those who can not sense Tao since they are unable to dodge the oncoming projectiles. It has been noted by Mu Dan that while Hermits such as himself can use this technique, humans are incapable of using it. The reason behind this is unknown.
Senjutsu (仙術 Literally meaning: Sage Techniques?) is a term that refers to a highly skilled Tao users ability to create multiple Tao projectiles. This term was also used by two Dōshi to form a unique transformation using the Paradise insects.
Hōjutsu (方術 Literally meaning: Direction Techniques?) is a term used to describe techniques used by Mu Dan that allows him to conceal his presence from his targets sight and mind and create footholds out of the Tao in the air, giving them levitation.
As demonstrated by Ran, the Tao protective cloak can be pushed even further. By stretching his Tao into threads and bundle them together around his body, he can create a sort of "Tao Armor" that is able to deflect attacks imbued with Tao, even against Earth-attribute Tao users.
A master Tao user can push their control even further by manipulating the form of inanimate objects. By using a small portion of their Tao, the user can take control of the Tao of whatever object they intend to use from afar. Rien demonstrated this ability to Chōbē by setting an incense alight. Zhu Jin controlled his cut up remains to attack Shion and Nurugai as a desperate attempt to recover and later on Shion's broken sword. Ran has shown to be an adept user of this ability by taking control of the Tao of the palace's structure which allows him to redesign the layout in an instant, restore anything that has been damaged, and create spikes for binding or attacking his targets. Though the objects are controlled by Tao, they are unable to cause a hindering reaction.
This ability has been shown by Gui Fa where they emit their Tao from their hand and sends it above their intended target, causing them to be weighed down by the immense pressure.
Gui Fa has demonstrated the ability to create illusions through their Tao. By first clapping their hands together, Gui Fa creates a dark background around them and their intended target and forms whatever events that had happened or will happen. The illusion tapes into their targets cerebral nervous system to affect their five senses, causing their bodies to believe that they have experienced physical pain.
The usage of Tao acts as a double-edge sword. Since Tao is basically the users life force, using too much of it can cause great strain to the users body and improper usage can cause death. The signs show up as nosebleeds, heavy breathing, and fatigue. Tao can also eat away at the users mind, leaving them with amnesia and can only be healed with a Tao restoration.
Though Tao grants the user the ability to predict attacks, the Tao user must have a steady concentration on what attacks they are trying to avoid. While Mu Dan was concentrating on avoiding Sagiri's attacks, he was unable to predict Yuzuriha and Senta's attacks on his legs due to only focusing his attention on one person. This was shown again when Mu Dan failed to notice Senta's attack from behind, as he was conflicted with fighting Yuzuriha, losing his concertation in the process. Also, this power does not necessarily change the speed of the user to make them any faster than normal, meaning that the user's prediction ability can be counter if they face an opponent who is too fast for them to react on time. While Gabimaru was successful in keeping track and reacting well to Shija's movements, Sagiri was unable to do the same due to not possessing equal speed and reflexes as the two.
When two Tao users are up against each other, the user with the stronger Tao can bypass the defense of the other Tao user. An example being Chōbē, whose Tao was rapidly growing, crushed a Dōshi's hand when its entire body was cloaked in it. This rule also applies with Tao attributes. After cloaking his body in a strong layer of Tao, Ran was able to deflect Yuzuriha's Tao imbued kunai despite her baring Earth-attributed Tao.
Talking is known to disrupt a person's flow of Tao if the user plans on suppressing it to hide their presence. Since their Tao is suppressed, the user is unable to sense the Tao around them since sensing it requires the user to focus their Tao around their eyes, there by giving out their location.
- The term "Tao" is used by those who study in Taoism. As noted by Yuzuriha, the life force energy may also be referred to as "ki" or "qi" (which is most commonly used) based on the difference in culture. Since they came to the island with no full knowledge of life energy and are centered around Taoism, the surviving criminals and executioners use the term "Tao" throughout the series. Also, before coming to the island, Shion used the term "waves" after Shugen named the sensation for him but has since moved on to calling it "Tao" after learning one of the proper ways of referring to the energy.
- Additionally, the concept of practicing Tao and utilizing it in a fighting style can refer to Qigong, or Taoist Qigong.
- The fighting style Lord Tensen uses with Tao is similar to the Chinese martial art Baguazhang, a fighting style that utilizes circle walking and internal power to their various strikes (palm, fist, elbow, fingers, etc.), kicks, joint locks, and throws. Baguazhang is also one of the martial arts used in Taoism.
- Shion theorized that warriors who went down in history were able to wield Tao whether they were aware of it or not.
- According to Mei, a Tensen's Tao is at its weakest during the night due to their connection with the Banko, which drops during this time of the day.
- Rien claims that controlling the Tao of inorganics and living things is not a simple task. However, Ran and two Dōshi contradicted this statement, with the Tensen even stating the exact opposite.
- Gabimaru noted that his strategy of using his opponents Tao against themselves is similar to the concept of Kakei or Tenshikei movements of Tai chi, as well as Sumo or Yawara.
- Because humans are able to waver between the extremes, Lord Tensen finds the Tao of a human to be sublime material in creating Tan.
- Humans acquiring the powers of Plant Tao is considered an act of losing one's humanity.
- Ninjutsu has been pointed out to be one of the many creations of Tao.
- Yamada Asaemon Shugen is the only known Tao user that possesses more than one elemental attribute.
- Qi – Wikipedia article on the principle that Tao and other similar principles are derived from.
- Taoism – Wikipedia article on the religious principles of Taoism.
- ↑ Jigokuraku Chapter 61, page 16